Health authorities from South and North Korea met on Wednesday, 11 years after the health-related inter-Korean talks in 2007, to discuss ways to block infectious diseases from entering the Korean peninsula.
The two sides began the talks at the joint liaison office in Gaeseong, North Korea, at around 10 a.m.
|Health officials from two Koreas pose for a photo before the talks at the joint liaison office in Gaeseong, North Korea, on Wednesday. From left are North Korea’s Public Health Ministry Vice Director Park Dong-cheol, Park Cheol-jin, secretary at the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, Public Health's State Sanitary Inspection Board Director Pak Myong-su, South Korea’s Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kwon Deok-cheol, Unification Ministry Humanitarian Cooperation Bureau Director-General Kim Byung-dae, and Health and Welfare Ministry Healthcare Policy Bureau Director-General Kwon Joon-wook. (Pool photo)
South Korea’s Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kwon Deok-cheol participated in the meeting, accompanied by Kwon Joon-wook, director-general of the ministry’s healthcare policy bureau, and Kim Byung-dae, director-general of the humanitarian cooperation bureau at the Unification Ministry.
From the North, Public Health Ministry's State Sanitary Inspection Board Director Pak Myong-su, the public health ministry’s deputy director Park Dong-cheol, and Park Cheol-jin, secretary at the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, took part in the talks.
“I came here yesterday because Gaeseong is far from Pyongyang. The North and the South is very close, and epidemiologically, it is a very short distance from any side for a contagious disease to spread,” the North’s State Sanitary Inspection Board Director Park said.
Although there were many issues to be addressed between the North and the South, the leaders of the two Koreas expressed their strong commitment to disease prevention, which included the joint epidemic prevention and strengthening of healthcare projects as noted by the Pyongyang Joint Declaration in September, he added.
In response, the South’s Vice Health Minister Kwon said, “As the two Koreans are very close in the distance, and as infectious diseases could spread through insects and mosquitoes that are out of human control, I believe the two Koreas can put together efforts to block them.” The talks could yield a significant result in such efforts, he said.
Kwon went on to say that healthcare-related talks should be thoroughly processed because such topics involve the lives of South Korean and North Korean residents.
“I hope that we could discuss concrete ways to put efforts into practice at the talks,” he added.
After giving opening statements, the two sides continued the meeting in closed-door session.